Cesar Ortega fell in love with libraries at the age of thirteen, when he joined the Aurora (IL) Public Library's Teen Advisory Board. The board was composed of a group of teens from around the city who created programs for the library.
"After being a part of the Teen Advisory Board, I knew I wanted to create that same space for other people," he said. "I would like to thank Hannah Sloan, the teen librarian at my library who has supported me all these years, for instilling in me a passion for libraries."
Ortega currently balances his job as a reference assistant at the Santori Public Library in Aurora with his coursework as a master's student in the Leep online program. His main area of interest is young adult librarianship, since it had such a profound impact during his formative years. He describes the iSchool experience so far as "absolutely amazing."
"The classes have taught me so much, and the teachers have been nothing less than perfect. The iSchool staff have gone above and beyond in reaching out to me during some troublesome times with family medical issues. It meant the world to me to have a School that was willing to support me and work with me when everything felt like it was spinning out of control," he said.
Ortega is the recipient of the iSchool's G. Edward Evans Minority Student Scholarship, which was established by Evans (PhD '69) to facilitate increased enrollment of underrepresented groups in library and information science education and the information professions. The scholarship has eased Ortega's financial burden and allowed him to focus on school.
"I am very grateful to Dr. Evans and everyone who has supported my scholarship," Ortega said. "It has been a great help, and I know the next recipient will feel the exact same way."
After completing his MS/LIS degree, Ortega plans to become a young adult librarian and hopes one day to become the library director of the Aurora Public Library system.
"I want to become the director for my hometown library so that I may give back to the community that has given me so much," he said.